Before taking my DELE B1, I searched extensively online for a description of exam day- something nicely written by a former candidate telling me what to expect, blow-by-blow. I found a pretty interesting one here, but seeing as it deals with the C1 level exam, it wasn’t directly relevant me, as the ways in which the intermediate and superior levels are examined are quite different. So, for what it’s worth, the following is my personal DELE B1 experience:
My exam was scheduled for a Friday, and I took it at the University of Leicester, which was pretty convenient as I’ve been taking Spanish lessons there for a year and know my way around. All candidates had to show up at 8.40am with their passports, and we were put in an empty language lab while final arrangements were made. I chatted a little with some of my fellow candidates: we were all taking different levels, from A1 to C1 (the C2 exam dates only come around once a year, in November). There were around 12 of us- but only 3 women there, including myself. There was a young French boy, an aspiring lawyer still at school, taking his B2; a man about my own age taking his B1 in advance of his wedding to his Ecuadorian fiancée; a couple of undergraduates taking their A2 exams; and a serious-seeming, very focussed man there for his C1. We all fell silent as the time for the exam approached, and we started nervously re-reading our notes.
First up was the reading test. With 5 tasks and 70 minutes to work with, I’d planned 14 minutes per tarea, which had always worked well when I’d been studying- a couple of the shorter tasks just didn’t need that much, so I always ended up with time to spare to read over my answers. Maybe it was nerves, but the first tarea completely threw me: it asked me to match 7 job hunters with their perfect job, from a choice of 10. I’d come across a similar task before, only then all the job seekers wanted different jobs- and these people were all translators looking for very similar jobs and they almost all seemed to be newly qualified and could speak both French and German. I panicked a bit and messed up my answer sheet by rubbing out my first response too vigorously. Help!
Thankfully, I got over my nerves, and hit upon the better strategy of writing my answers first on the exam paper, before transferring them to the hoja de respuestas, which saved endless rubbing-out and possible loss of marks due to an unclear answer sheet. The rest of the reading exam was pretty straightforward, and I felt reasonably confident of my answers before finishing with a little time to spare.
Next up was listening. As we were all doing different exams, we we in control of our own listening tasks- seated at computers, we simply placed the headphones over our ears and played the pre-loaded tracks. The listening tasks were definitely easier than the ones provided by El Cronómetro, although the monologue spoken, in an Argentinian accent, was probably the trickiest thing- my two fellow B1 candidates both agreed with me on this point afterwards. Argentinian accents are lilting, suffused with Italian vowels, and quite beautiful, but to me they seem so different from every other accent- even Latin American ones- and consequently very hard to follow. Still, thanks to the fact that I was in control of my own recordings, I was able to re-play one track at the end (of a Mexican radio show) in order to check a particular answer I was unsure of, and overall I had a good feeling about the way it had all gone.
We had a 30 minute break before returning to the exam room for the written section of the exam. There were 2 tasks, with an hour total in which to write both. The topics which came up were pretty good: the first one required you to respond to a job offer from a friend in Madrid (it was in a secondhand clothes shop, something I’m interested in), and the second provided a choice: write a forum post about a city you’ve visited with travel tips, or write advice to people looking for work. I went for the former, and wrote about York, a city I know quite well. I was happier with my first task, as I managed to sneak in a correct subjunctive (I checked with my novio afterwards) as well as a future tense and some frases hechas which I’d learned by heart.
We then broke for lunch, with everyone given a their own time to return for the oral. I had over 2 hours to wait, so I met my novio for lunch, ran an errand, and grabbed a coffee before returning to the exam building and reading El Cronómetro‘s advice about this section of the exam. I was called in early, as the previous candidate didn’t show up, and was given 15 minutes to prepare a theme for a short talk. I was given about 6 choices: working from home, social networks, and various other things- I opted for “A Special Person” (aww) and started making notes about my abuela. When I went in, I was surprised to see how young the examiner seemed. She quickly put me at my ease before I launched into my talk, and she asked a couple of follow-up questions. I know I made mistakes (cuidado con la concordancia) but I felt that I spoke reasonably fluently, and I understood everything she asking me without her needing to explain anything. I then had to describe a photo from a choice of two (I chose one showing a group of young people sitting around a table) and then take part in a role-play around the theme of booking a holiday. It seemed to pass very quickly.
For sure, the most challenging part was the oral. I think I should have elaborated more on my responses in the role-play: a couple of my answers were very short, which may well count against me. However, it was just one task in one part of the exam, and overall, I felt quite well-prepared, and I have a positive feeling about my performance as a whole. I will be several months before I receive my results, and I’ll update this post then.
This was the first of my post-DELE glasses of wine.
UPDATE: I passed! And I got my results in just over 6 weeks. Amazing. See the post about my results here.